Archive for the 'Early Church Father' Category

Loving What Jesus Loves (Part Three)

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

There is one body and one Spirit— just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Eph. 4:4-6 NIV

In Part One and Part Two of this series, we established that if we are in love with Jesus, we will love what Jesus loves, and what Jesus loves is his church (Eph. 5:25). However, some Christians claim to love Jesus without want or need for the church. While still others claim to love the church without maintaining an intimate love relationship with the Lord of the Church. It is a false dichotomy, “The Church is in Christ as Eve was in Adam,” wrote Anglican Divine, Richard Hooker. To have one is to have the other: Christ and the church cannot be separated (1 Cor. 12:12-13).

Some individuals claim an personal relationship with God, but are not in covenant commitment with other believers. They roam from local church to local church never establishing themselves in relationships of accountability. They never allow themselves to be challenged, never make a commitment, and never grow spiritually. They claim to be in love with Jesus, but they avoid the church.

Others attend church regularly, they can tell you the history of their building and the development of their denomination. These church goers can recite the doctrinal statements of their communion verbatim. However, they lack a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus. These church historians can tell you about all their preachers and church leaders, yet they are not able to hear the Lord for themselves. They are devoted to their particular church or denomination, but they are not a committed follower of the Lord of the church.

The New Testament demands that loving Christ means loving what he loves and what he loves is his church (Col. 1:18). As Cyprian of Carthage declared, “He cannot have God for his father who refuses to have the Church for his mother.” No matter how flawed her members, or how inconsistent their behavior, or how ridiculous its proclamations, Christ still loves his church.

Christ lives in his church, he operates through her, and changes lives by her. Scripturally, we are called to a living relationship with Jesus and to living relationships with our fellow members in the Body of Christ. As the Greek church father, Origen, stated:

The Church is Christ manifest in the flesh, as Jesus of Nazareth was God manifest in the flesh.

Origen cited in Thomas C. Oden, Life in the Spirit (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1992), 293.

Christ Unites Scripture

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,

Luke 24:44-45

As a young Christian, I tended to read the Bible as a handbook: I picked out the bits and pieces that helped me to survive emotionally and spiritually. I would looked for advice, devotional strength, and commands to obey.

As I grew in grace, the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to see the larger whole. Christ in the Old and the New covenants, Christ in the stories, Christ in the types and images of worship, and Christ in the mouths of the prophets. Christ as grace flowing through all the pages of the Bible. All of Christ, not as allegory, but as the Second Person of the Trinity operating in the lives of all the saints before and the after the birth of Christ.

You [God] taught your servant Athanasius that Christ unites Scripture and all things, for Scripture, as much as the world and human existence and history, is all about Christ. Scripture everywhere teaches about Christ. His life, death, and resurrection are the hinge on which the drama of Scripture turns, and you taught Athanasius to find shadows of Christ in the Old Testament, shadows that break forth in light with the fulfillment of the New. And you taught that Christ is the pattern not only for the Scriptures but for all things.

Peter J. Leithart, Athanasius, Foundations of Theological Exegesis and Christian Spirituality Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011), xvii.

Every part of Holy Writ announces through words the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ, reveals it through facts and establishes it through examples . . . For it is our Lord who during all the present age, through true and manifest adumbrations, generates, cleanses, sanctifies, chooses, separates, or redeems the Church in the Patriarchs, through Adam’s slumber, Noah’s flood, Melchizedek’s blessing, Abraham’s justification, Isaac’s birth, and Jacob’s bondage.

Hilary of Poitiers cited in Christopher A. Hall, Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998), 192.

A Gushing Spring

Monday, December 5th, 2011


How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Psalm 119:103 ESV

The Bible is the Word of God by its immeasurable majesty, moral purity, essential unity, and time-tested faithfulness. The Bible is unique in its power to convince and convert our hearts, comfort and build-up our spirits, and divide and measure our motives. The Bible is encouragement in trial, insight into the tribulations of life, and guidance in the midst of confusion. The Bible is the only book whose author can personally and directly apply its truths to our daily lives.

The Word of God is in your heart. The Word digs in this soil so that the spring may gush out.

Origen quoted in Ancient Christian Devotional: A Year of Weekly Readings, Lectionary Cycle B, ed., Thomas C. Oden and Cindy Crosby [Kindle Edition] (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2011).

The Christ of Advent

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

1 Thes. 4:16 ESV

The season of Advent celebrates three comings of Christ: one future, one past, and one present. The Christ of the first coming came in obscurity offering salvation. The Christ of the second coming will come in power and great glory judging the world. Christ comes now through the indwelling Holy Spirit calling us to intimacy and holiness with him. Three comings, one Christ, one life change, one heart, yours.

The first coming of Christ the Lord, God’s Son and our God, was in obscurity. The second will be in sight of the whole world. When he came in obscurity no one recognized him but his own servants. When he comes openly he will be known by both the good and the bad. When he came in obscurity, it was to be judged.

When he comes openly it will be to judge. He was silent at his trial, as the prophet foretold . . . . Silent when accused, he will not be silent as judge. Even now he does not keep silent, if there is anyone to listen. But it says he will not keep silent then, because his voice will be acknowledged even by those who despise it.

St. Augustine, Sermon 18.1-2.

Cindy Crosby and Thomas C. Oden, eds., Ancient Christian Devotional: Lectionary Cycle B: A Year of Daily Readings [Kindle Edition] (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2011).

A Trinity of One

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

The Three in One 

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, othe heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.

Matt. 3: 16-17

God is three persons, each person is fully God, and there is one God. Three distinct individuals/persons, each with all of the full attributes of the Godhead, yet one in essence/substance. Each person is equal in being, but the Son and the Holy Spirit are subordinate to the Father in role.

The Father is the Heavenly Vinedresser, the Son is the Vine, and the Holy Spirit is Life itself (John 15: 1-4, 7:37-38). The Father outwardly prunes, the Son indwells us, and the Holy Spirit works through us.  The Father sovereignly directs our circumstances, the Son’s work redeems the circumstance, and the Holy Spirit transforms us in the midst of our circumstances.

In summary, the Father directs, the Son performs, and the Holy Spirit applies. The Holy Spirit does in us what the Son did for us on the Cross by the will of the Father. Peter Leithart recently wrote, “God is one as Trinity.” In other words, the Lord is a Trinity of one.

No sooner do I conceive of the One than I am illumined by the Splendour of the Three; no sooner do I distinguish Them than I am carried back to the One. When I think of any One of the Three I think of Him as the Whole, and my eyes are filled, and the greater part of what I am thinking of escapes me. I cannot grasp the greatness of That One so as to attribute a greater greatness to the Rest. When I contemplate the Three together, I see but one torch, and cannot divide or measure out the Undivided Light.

Gregory of Nazianzus, Theological Orations, XL, 41, located in Phillip Schaff, The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Second Series, Vol. VII. (Oak Harbor : Logos Research Systems, 1997), S. 375.


When You Get One You Get Them All

Saturday, June 18th, 2011


Trinity Sunday Reflection

And we know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and he is eternal life.

1 John 5:20 NLT

The doctrine of the Trinity goes something like this: God is three persons, each person is fully God, and there is one God. Three distinct individuals/persons, each with all of the full attributes of the Godhead, yet one in essence/substance. Each person is equal in being, but the Son and the Holy Spirit are subordinate to the Father in role. The distinctions between the members of the Trinity are in the manner in which they relate to each other and to the rest of creation. The doctrine of the Trinity lies in the divine self-disclosure in Jesus, who as the Son revealed the Father and poured out in the Holy Spirit.

Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 1994), 226.

Perichoresis is the theological concept that the Divine essence is shared by each of the three persons of the Trinity in a manner that does not deny their individual personhood. When the Father, or Son, or Holy Spirit act individually then that action is also the work of the other two persons. In other words, when you get one person of the Trinity, you get them all.

Stanley Grenz, David Guretzki, Cherith Fee Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1999), 26, 116.

Scripture [says] … “I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever.” He will not therefore depart when the Father and the Son come, but will be in the same abode with them eternally; because neither will He come without them, nor they without Him. But in order to intimate the Trinity, some things are separately affirmed, the Persons being also each severally named; and yet are not to be understood as though the other Persons were excluded, on account of the unity of the same Trinity and the One substance and Godhead of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

St. Augustine (354-430) On the Trinity, Chapter 9

When Trials Befall Us

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011


Refined by Fire

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1:6-7 ESV

We live in the midst of the fallout of the fall: sin has affected every area of creation and all aspects of our lives. Disappointment, pain, and trouble are significant ingredients of our daily lives. Ill-timed, unexpected tragedies can shape our lives for the better or make our hearts hard through bitterness. Our choice: trust that God is sovereignly working or become angry that life is not going our way.

Some trials come upon without our choice: some trials are self-inflicted. Whatever their source do not become despondent, depressed, or despairing. God is giving us our heart’s desire: Christlike character, Holy Spirit intimacy, and Fatherly guidance.  By faith, we must trust that our Heavenly Vinedresser is sovereignly cultivating Christ in us.

Let us not then be disturbed, neither dismayed, when trials befall us. For if the gold refiner sees how long he ought to leave the piece of gold in the furnace, and when he ought to draw it out, and does not allow it to remain in the fire until it is destroyed and burnt up: much more does God understand this, and when He sees that we have become more pure, He releases us from our trials so that we may not be overthrown and cast down by the multiplication of our evils.

Let us then not be repining, or faint-hearted, when some unexpected thing befalls us; but let us suffer Him who knows these things accurately, to prove our hearts by fire as long as He pleases: for He does this for a useful purpose and with a view to the profit of those who are tried.

St. John Chrysostom (c.347–407), “Homily on the Paralytic Let Down Through the Roof

HT: Christian Classics Ethereal Library



Joy that Springs Forth

Monday, May 2nd, 2011


Joy: A Heart Fulfilled in Christ

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

Col. 3:16  NKJV

Joy is that deep, supernatural fulfillment that comes in knowing that we are experiencing and expressing the one who is true satisfaction, Jesus Christ. Joy is knows that we are unconditionally loved, graciously forgiven, and eternally kept. Joy is released in our lives when we cultivate Christ’s conscious, constant presence.  Joy is not produced by celebration or emotional highs: supernatural fulfillment is imparted by obedience to God’s commands (1 Thess. 5:16-18).

The loss of joy does not make the world better — and, conversely, refusing joy for the sake of suffering does not help those who suffer. The contrary is true. The world needs people who discover the good, who rejoice in it and thereby derive the courage and impetus to do good. We have a new need for that primordial trust which ultimately faith can give. That the world is basically good, that God is there and is good. That it is good to live and be a human being. This results, then, in the courage to rejoice, which in turn becomes commitment to making sure that other people, too, can rejoice and receive good news.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Salt of the Earth (San Francisco: Ignatius Press,), 36-37.

All our life is like a day of celebration for us; we are convinced, in fact, that God is always everywhere. We work while singing, we sail while reciting hymns, we accomplish all other occupations of life while praying.

Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215 A.D.)

HT: Christian History Blog

Resurrection Victory

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

The Conquering of Our Greatest Fear: Death

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.

Heb. 2:14-15

The greatest fear all people fight is the fear of dying. In a society which marginalizes the ugly effects of death, we find it hard to believe that the fear of death is life’s greatest struggle. Most of us have never seen a decaying body or have rarely seen an individual move from this life into eternity. Most of our relatives have died alone in nursing homes or hospitals. Our funerals are quick and pristine. Our mourning is quiet and withdrawn. We use euphemisms like “passed away” or the “late” John Smith to avoid using the word, “death.” As a society, we attempt to ignore death, but death is our ever present reality.

In spite of the cover-up, death remains our greatest fear. The fear of death is the controlling factor behind most people’s decisions, choices, and actions (Heb. 2:14-15). The Bible says that we were not created to die. Our existence was meant to be eternal, part of being made in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26). We were designed to live forever. However, the Fall changed everything. Death entered this world through sin. Death is an aberration created by sin’s awful effect on creation (Rom. 6:23). Therefore, death is our greatest enemy. Death separates relationships. Death is deterioration and decay (not a pretty sight). Death causes hurt, pain, anguish, and grief. We were not wired for death.

However, Christ came to deliver us not only from the fear of death, but from the effects of death itself. The resurrection of Jesus was not simply a coming back from the dead, but a transformation in which Jesus’ material body was made perfect and complete: free from sickness, weakness, decay and aging. By coming back from the dead by the power of the Spirit (Rom. 8:11), Jesus Christ shattered death’s grip and made the way for us to live in eternity with him (1 Cor. 15:20-22).

At the Second Coming of Christ, we too will be given glorified, physical bodies ready to live life in eternity in a “new heavens and a new earth” (2 Peter 3:13). Spirits that are resident in heaven will be rejoined to their glorified bodies and we will live as we were born to live eternally. This new Jerusalem will be a place that is without death, weeping, sickness, and pain (Rev. 21:1-4). The resurrection of Christ not only overcomes our fear of death, but destroys the power of death by loosing Satan’s grip, thereby defeating our greatest foe (1 Cor. 15:26).

Christ came that he might slay sin, render death null and void, and give life to men. He was made flesh in order that He might destroy death and bring us to life, for we are tied and bound in sin.

St. Irenaeus of Lyon (202 a.d.)

If we believe in Christ, let us have faith in His work and promises; and since we shall not die eternally, let us come with glad assurance to Christ, with Whom we are both to conquer and to reign forever.

St. Cyprian of Carthage (258 a.d.)

Consummate Glory in God

Monday, April 4th, 2011


Glorifying God

Sing, O heavens, for the Lord has done this wondrous thing. Shout for joy, O depths of the earth! Break into song, O mountains and forests and every tree! For the Lord has redeemed Jacob and is glorified in Israel.

Isa. 44:23 NLT

Glory is the manifested presence and power of God in our lives and through his church. Glory is pictured in the Bible as the bright, shining radiance that surrounds God’s ineffable perfection. Glory is the presence of God in all his faultlessness, beauty, sinlessness, holiness, majesty, power, sufficiency, and love.

How do we glorify God? First, we need to be mindful that we cannot add to God’s glory. Second, glorifying God means to acknowledge his perfect presence, to value him above everything, and to make him known to all. Last, glorifying God involves heartfelt thanksgiving for his grace and trust in his infinite love.

Basil the Great stated that we glorify God when we reject performance orientation and receive Christ’s righteousness. God is exalted when we turn our backs on our “good works” accept Christ’s righteousness as our own. Receiving Christ’s righteousness is being made right with God–our justification. Justification is an immediate work of God in which he forgives our sins, counts Christ’s sinlessness as ours, and declares us right in his sight. God is most glorified when we look to the Cross for our salvation.

What is true glory and what makes a man great?

‘In this,’ says the Prophet, ‘let him that glories, glory that he understands and knows that I am the Lord’ (Jer. 9:24).

This constitutes the highest dignity of man, this is his glory and greatness: truly to know what is great and to cleave to it, and to seek after glory from the Lord of glory. The Apostle tells us: ‘He that glories may glory in the Lord,’ saying: ‘Christ was made for us wisdom of God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption; that, as it is written: he that glories may glory in the Lord’ (1 Cor. 1:30-31).

Now, this is the perfect and consummate glory in God: not to exult in one’s own righteousness, but, recognizing oneself as lacking true righteousness, to be justified by faith in Christ alone.

Basil the Great, 330-379, Homily on Humility 20.3.

HT: Trevin Wax